Put an End to Exercise Excuses—For Good

By Elizabeth Millard, A.C.E.-certified trainer, RYT-200 yoga teacher |

If you always seem to have a reason to not work out, here’s some sound advice on how to convince yourself that you should.

put an end to exercise excuses

We don’t need to explain to you why it’s so easy to put off a workout. But deep down, we all know that we should get our hearts pumping on a regular basis. To help people feel more motivated, many exercise pros advise reluctant exercisers to “find your why.” That means pinpointing your top reason for staying active. Maybe that’s so you can play with your grandkids, keep up with active friends, or stay mobile so you can travel more often.

While that’s excellent advice, it’s important to “find your but” as well. What excuses do you use to stay on the couch? Here are some top reasons older adults skip a workout, and why you should move around anyway.

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Exercise Excuse #1: “I’m too tired.”

Skipping exercise because you’re tired can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you rest, the lazier you can feel. Being sedentary all day can lead to sleep problems at night, which also ups the risk of daytime sleepiness, says Scott Kaiser, M.D. He is a geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health for Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in California.

This can become a vicious cycle: You don’t work out because you feel tired, but you feel tired because you’re skipping workouts. One way to break this habit is with a small promise to yourself.

“Commit to exercising for five minutes, whatever that might be, with yoga, walking, or biking,” Dr. Kaiser says. “Rarely do people stop at five minutes. They keep going.” Giving yourself a nudge can get you started, and you can pick up momentum from there.

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Exercise Excuse #2: “My arthritis or lower back pain is flaring up.”

Just like being tired, using discomfort as an excuse not to exercise can sabotage your sleep and energy levels too. But in addition to that, skipping exercise may worsen chronic pain, says Dr. Kaiser. “Lower back pain usually gets worse if you don’t get some movement,” he says.

The truth is that exercise is a recommended treatment for people with a variety of pain conditions, finds a review in The Journal of Physiology. That doesn’t mean you need to ignore the pain and push through it—please don’t—but it may help bring you some relief if you add some gentle stretching and strengthening into your movement mix.

If you’re not sure where to start, try an activity that’s easy on the joints like yoga, tai chi, biking, or swimming. (Here are 4 Arthritis-Friendly Yoga Poses to try.)

While people with some pain conditions should avoid high-impact exercise initially, you can work up to it gradually as part of a structured program. As with any medical condition, check with your doctor if you’re experiencing chronic pain, so you can put together an exercise program that’s tailored toward your specific situation.

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Exercise Excuse #3: “There’s no point. I’m not seeing results.”

We get it: It’s easy to get frustrated. But if your belly fat is stubbornly staying put—or you’re not seeing any muscle gain in your arms and legs—you may be missing the results that you are making, says certified personal trainer Sarah Pope. She is a senior fitness specialist at Life Time, a chain of fitness centers across the U.S.

Maybe your physical improvements have come in the form of endurance, Pope says. You can climb a set of stairs without feeling as winded as you once did, or you can walk for much longer than you could a few months ago.

For a little inspiration, think back to your first SilverSneakers classes and the improvements you noticed back then. They’re still happening, even if you feel less challenged by the exercises now. That’s a good thing!

Pope also adds that even if you don’t see more muscle tone or mass, consider the ways you’ve gotten stronger and more stable. You may have better balance, are able to lift heavier items, or you may not feel as stiff and sore in the morning. Fitness results can be subtle, so it helps to pay attention to how far you’ve come since you started exercising regularly.

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Exercise Excuse #4: “I’m too busy.”

Many of us have a lot going on. But appointments, outings, and family commitments don’t need to sabotage your exercise routine. Even having company in town doesn’t need to be an excuse to stay on the couch.

One strategy to stay on track is to involve your visitors, if possible. Instead of choosing sedentary activities like a movie or board games, sprinkle more active opportunities into the visit. Tour a museum, take a walk after dinner, play pickleball, or invite guests to join you at the gym.

Remember, there will always be a “but” ready to keep you on the exercise sidelines. Life happens, and you can still fit in healthy movement anyway.

“It’s helpful to remember why you’re active in the first place,” says Pope. Exercise is so important for our health and pretty much every component of daily living. “Have patience with yourself and remember that exercise is so much more than working out. That can help keep you motivated,” she says.

See our sources:
Review of the benefits of exercise for chronic pain: The Journal of Physiology

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